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Realtors predict uptick in prices, sales activity

Lingering vacant and foreclosed properties is old news in Hillsborough County as things continue shift to a more robust real estate market. According to area Realtors, 2013 should bring an uptick in home prices and sales activity. Willy Culkar, a Realtor with Lipply Real Estate in Carrollwood, said he is optimistic about the New Year. "We have seen the inventory in 2012 be half of what it was in 2011," Culkar said. "I think it will probably stay about the same. Because of lower inventory, prices are inching up. That's good for sellers because sellers are going to be able to hold their prices more firm than they had in the past." Buyers may continue to face several challenges in 2013, according to Culkar. In addition to possible bidding wars and fewer properties from which to choose, they could have to wait longer to close on a property.
He said lenders are stricter about their underwriting rules than they were during the housing bubble. "Even people with great credit have to go through a great deal in order to get financing," he said. "It tends to make closings take longer." Although prices are ticking up, housing values in Carrollwood are still down by 30 to 40 percent compared to the highs of 2006, he noted. "It's going to be a while before we get back to the kind of levels we were at back then," Culkar said. "The optimistic view is that people who have been holding out will be more willing to sell. In some instances, we may recommend a seller consider other options. If they are underwater in their mortgages, they may want to consider a mortgage modification or turning it into a rental property." Some people may be eligible for special government programs for a reduction in principal or a refinance, he said. If housing values continue to go up in 2013, more people will be able to put their homes on the market without having to resort to a short sale. "I think things changed slightly after the election," he said. "There seem to be more people willing to enter the marketplace." As far as new construction, Culkar said buyers who tend to look in places other than Carrollwood, which is built out. George M. Wilkins, a Realtor with Prudential Tropical Realty in Brandon said most of Brandon is also built out, although Fish Hawk and others parts of Hillsborough County are still booming. "You have a lot new construction going on in Riverview, Valrico, Apollo Beach," Wilkins said. "Right now new construction is attractively priced. Some people just prefer existing homes. You don't have construction trucks driving by." Buyers continue to be drawn to the resale homes in Brandon because of the shopping, interstates and proximity to Tampa, he said. Wilkins said he believes 2013 will bring a small increase in home prices. But, the challenge that could remain in the New Year is a smaller inventory. "The inventory is lower than it's been in years," he said. "People are hesitant to sell. Banks are accelerating the foreclosures and banks are closing on short sales faster. They are more receptive to short sales." Depending on whether interest rates rise dramatically, the demand for housing may become even greater in 2013 as buyers scramble to lock in at historically low mortgage rates. "It is the most affordable time to buy," Wilkins said. "You can buy cheaper than you can rent. I think it's the economy -- it's still a big question mark. There are others who are positive and optimistic and say let's go because there will never be a more affordable time."

Lcone@tampatrib.com (813) 731-2008
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